Research aims to prevent swimmer shoulder injuries

Shoulder injuries can be devastating when it comes to an elite swimmer’s career, causing costly time out from training and sometimes even spelling the end of a sporting journey. But that’d a problem that Alec McKenzie hopes to be able to prevent, with research in partnership with the Queensland Academy of Sport and Swimming Australia.

Joining together with his PhD supervisors Steve Duhig, Andrea Hams and Jonathon Headrick, the team are taking advantage of a unique industry partnership and scholarship funding opportunity with the sports body to help develop a program that prevents shoulder injuries in swimmers.

Being able to engage with industry makes that research possible and provides huge benefits for Queensland Academy of Sport, Alec, Steve and Griffith as well.

“I don’t think what I’m doing would be possible without that industry funding and support, Alec says. Steve continues: “It certainly helps with the recruitment, which is the hardest part of research.”

PhD candidate Alec McKenzie.

Alec explains that to complete his research without the partnership with Queensland Academy of Sport would be nearly impossible. “I’m going to need 100-plus elite swimmers, the higher level, the better,” he says.

“For sports science, or only if you want to recruit elite athletes, you can’t really do that just by standing on the beach and waving them down … it would take us 10 years or more that way. Having Queensland Academy of Sport in our corner, they provide the athletes to study, and the support, guidance and connections so we can just go and do it in a timely manner.”

Ivan Hooper, the lead national physiotherapist for Queensland Academy of Sport has said the partnership has been invaluable for them. It allows him to just focus on helping the athletes meet their goals while Alec and Steve work hard to set up a program that prevents the injuries in the first place.

“My primary purpose is not to be a researcher, so having Alec there is awesome,” Ivan says.

Alec says that “in an ideal world, we will be implementing that program by the time I graduate, having shown its effectiveness.

“Currently someone hurts their shoulder and there’s no set regimen to prevent that. It’s my role to see if I can.”